As usual recently, so much going on that I don’t have time to write much about a lot of it, but here are some quick links and comments.
The SUSY 06 conference is taking place this week, hosted by UC Irvine, with talks at the Marriott Hotel in Newport Beach. Here’s the program, which now has links to slides for some of the talks in the parallel sessions, although not at the moment for those in the plenary sessions. This evening there will be a plenary session on Naturalness, with talks by experimentalist Burton Richter, theorists Frank Wilczek, Leonard Susskind and Andrei Linde. This line-up is very heavily weighted toward the anthropic point of view, I wonder why the organizers couldn’t find anyone from the other side. Various bloggers are at the conference reporting, including Clifford Johnson and Sabine Hossenfelder. B. Yen, who normally covers off-road motor-racing, has decided to cover something even more exciting, academics at a SUSY conference, and is providing stills, video, and podcasts via iTunes from the conference site.
Strings 2006, this year’s edition of the big yearly string theory conference held each summer begins next week in Beijing. The conference web-site itself still doesn’t yet have even a schedule of talks or titles of talks, but Jonathan Shock will be at least one person blogging from there, and he has begun with a long posting of advice about Beijing for people traveling there for the conference.
The big political news of a few days ago was the blogger convention in Las Vegas, with potential 2008 presidential candidates showing up to try and impress the most influential people in the country at the moment, bloggers. Sean Carroll reports from the science-blogging caucus there that Wesley Clark made his pitch by coming out strongly in favor of Leonard Susskind and the anthropic string theory landscape. I know, this sounds like a weird joke, but it’s not.
In other political news closer to home here, today’s New York Times has a story about some of Einstein’s off-prints being auctioned by Christie’s, for the benefit of New York’s progressive Working Families Party.
The Tevatron is back in business colliding particles, having overcome the attack of the killer raccoons. There’s a report from Gordon Watts who explains the importance of plastic ducks for his experiment’s data acquisition system.
John Baez’s latest This Week’s Finds is out, this time it’s mostly a very enlightening discussion of the relation of music theory and group theory. His web site also contains some wonderful notes by Michael Shulman from a minicourse John gave on n-categories and cohomology theory. John’s web-site increases it resemblance to a modern blog with an RSS feed set up by Serkan Cabi.
The math blogosphere seems to my mind somewhat weirdly dominated by those with an interest in category theory. Besides John and Urs Schreiber, there’s David Corfield, Robin Houston, and the only math blog at ScienceBlogs, that of Mark Chu-Carroll.
Urs has interesting reports from the ESI Research Conference on Homological Mirror Symmetry going on this week and next.
Le Monde has an article about Dubna.
There’s definitely an increasingly widespread backlash against string theory going on in the wider culture. A Columbia colleague last night sent me an extract from a book his daughter was reading. It’s called 100 Bullshit Jobs … and how to get them by Stanley Bing, and one of the “Bullshit Jobs” listed is that of “Quantum Physicist String Theorist”. Skills required for the job are listed as
Bullshit at such a high level of discourse, with such a profound understanding of arcane mathematical concepts, that everybody thinks they are stupider than you.
The listing describes
… string theorists, who have now broken up into two warring camps, each fighting for control of PBS. One school says that there are many, many universes, possibly an infinite number. The other school is more conservative and counts just a couple of cosmic alternatives, and has the benefit of being represented by a total babe.
I also heard recently from the people who put out Axes and Alleys, the official magazine of the Royal Tractor Repair and Maintenance Society of Outer Mongolia. Their latest issue has a graphic on page 27 inspired by their impression of superstring theory.
Finally, as near as I can tell Lubos has finally gone completely bonkers. In his last few ranting postings, people who disagree with him no longer have the intelligence of dogs, but are compared to squirrels (or, in my case, microbes). His latest posting is about why the scientific status of string theory and of evolution theory are the same (although he thinks “evolution is more dogmatic while string theory is more open-minded work in progress”), and I’m sure the people at the Discovery Institute will enjoy it greatly. He goes on about the fact that at one point, under great duress, Jacques Distler did admit in the comment section of a blog that he disagreed with Lubos on this point. Lubos compares this to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus:
This almost sounds like a story from the New Testament except that in the past, there would be 1 Judas in such a story. Today we have 387 Judases with various confused and triply corrupt self-interests and relations to the bad players in the game of life.
Instead of dissociating themselves from Lubos’s increasingly nutty postings about string theory, some string theorists such as Moshe Roszali and Joe Polchinski instead have decided this is a good time to encourage him and start participating in the comment section of his blog. Polchinski contributed to a top ten list of greatest achievements of string theory produced by Lubos two more: the “fact” that the unknown theory is somehow known to have no parameters, and the existence of the landscape and thus the anthropic solution of the CC problem.
The fact that Polchinski seems to think Lubos’s blog is a good place for him to spend his time is kind of funny given that he has publicly attacked me for saying unpleasant things about people (I did once describe a paper of his in an uncalled-for way), as well as privately telling people he won’t read my blog because of the nasty personal things I say about people. For some reason he seems to have no problem with Lubos, to the point of being willing to encourage him as he gets more and more delusional. This is really sad.
Update: Some of the plenary talks at SUSY 06 are now on-line. The schedule of talks with titles for Strings 2006 is now on-line.